Whilst Mazarin was endeavoring to recover from the serious alarm he had just experienced, Athos and Raoul were exchanging a few words in a corner of the apartment. “Well, here you are at Paris, then, Raoul?” said the comte.
“Yes, monsieur, since the return of M. le Prince.”
“I cannot converse freely with you here, because we are observed; but I shall return home presently, and shall expect you as soon as your duty permits.”
Raoul bowed, and, at that moment, M. le Prince came up to them. The prince had that clear and keen look which distinguishes birds of prey of the noble species; his physiognomy itself presented several distinct traits of this resemblance. It is known that in the Prince de Conde, the aquiline nose rose out sharply and incisively from a brow slightly retreating, rather low than high, and according to the railers of the court, — a pitiless race without mercy even for genius, — constituted rather an eagle’s beak than a human nose, in the heir of the illustrious princes of the house of Conde. This penetrating look, this imperious expression of the whole countenance, generally disturbed those to whom the prince spoke, more than either majesty or regular beauty could have done in the conqueror of Rocroi. Besides this, the fire mounted so suddenly to his projecting eyes, that with the prince every sort of animation resembled passion. Now, on account of his rank, everybody at the court respected M. le Prince, and many even, seeing only the man, carried their respect as far as terror.
Louis de Conde then advanced towards the Comte de la Fere and Raoul, with the marked intention of being saluted by the one, and of speaking with the other. No man bowed with more reserved grace than the Comte de la Fere. He disdained to put into a salutation all the shades which a courtier ordinarily borrows from the same color — the desire to please. Athos knew his own personal value, and bowed to the prince like a man, correcting by something sympathetic and undefinable that which might have appeared offensive to the pride of the highest rank in the inflexibility of his attitude. The prince was about to speak to Raoul. Athos forestalled him. “If M. le Vicomte de Bragelonne,” said he, “were not one of the humble servants of your royal highness, I would beg him to pronounce my name before you — mon prince.”
“I have the honor to address Monsieur le Comte de la Fere,” said Conde, instantly.
“My protector,” added Raoul, blushing.
“One of the most honorable men in the kingdom,” continued the prince; “one of the first gentlemen of France, and of whom I have heard so much that I have frequently desired to number him among my friends.”
“An honor of which I should be unworthy,” replied Athos, “but for the respect and admiration I entertain for your royal highness.”
“Monsieur de Bragelonne,” said the prince, “is a good officer, and it is plainly seen that he has been to a good school. Ah, monsieur le comte, in your time, generals had soldiers!”